The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner or a Look at Proto-cyberpunk a la 1975

It’s been said that John Brunner invented the term “worm” for a program that replicates itself on a network in this proto-cyberpunk novel from 1975.

Future Shock!

In the obsessively technological, paranoidally secretive and brutally competitive society depicted by John Brunner, even personal identities are under threat. But one man has made it his mission to liberate the mental prisoners. to restore their freedom in a world run mad.

Nickie Halflinger, the only person to escape from Tarnover- where they raise hyper-intelligent children to maintain the political dominance of the USA in the 21st century – is on the run, dodging from loophole to crevice to crack in the computerised data-net that binds the continent like chains. After years of flight and constant changes of identity, at the strange small town called Precipice he discovers he is not alone in his quest. But can his new allies save him when he falls again into the sinister grasp of Tarnover…?

The first half of the novel had me wondering if this was way to intelligent  for me, then the fog lifted, the wow feelings started to hit me. This is a great novel! It involves the Brain Race, a development from the previous Arms Race. Every superpower collect their own brain resources and develop them at great cost in institutions like Tarnover to handle the out of control speed of change in society. The novel addresses many of the problems with the ever faster changing world that are still valid today. Especially in the area of mental health.

Paranoia is a sign of the times when this book was written and it shows. People are afraid everything they are could be taken from them by someone on the net, government or multinational companies that knows more about them than they do and have access to information on the net they don’t (We don’t think that today,do we?). Basically the society here is sick and this book is about the cure.

One might also say that this is an early case of “Information wants to be Free” argument.

The love story with Kate was an added spice.

The Shockwave Rider impressed me with its content and how the pieces fell into place in the story and it became great. It is a few years old but  much of what it tells are still valid. Read it if you can get hold of it. I found mine in a Store on Charring Cross Road, London this summer. I think there was more than one there.

While I researched this I also found The Evolution of Cyberpunk by Nick Ravo & Eric Nash published in The New York Times 1993 that might be of interest